Mashed potato gratin with browned butter, manchego, and horseradish

So as it turns out, Fine Cooking publishes its Thanksgiving edition early.  How early? The issue is technically October, but it was delivered to our mailbox in September.  That’s pretty early to be thinking about Thanksgiving…

….Unless it’s your very first year hosting Thanksgiving festivities.  In which case, you’re like THANK GOD Fine Cooking is coming to my rescue.

That might be me.

I’ve spent Thanksgiving in many different locations over the year.  I was actually trying to count the other day, and I think I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving in at least nine different cities, from Oregon to Ireland.  That’s pretty cool, right?  But it also means my first time hosting is just a wee bit intimidating.  Especially because Ross’s Thanksgiving experience has been a little different than mine.  He has spent 27 out of 29 Thanksgivings in Colorado with his extended family.  This year, for the first time ever, his parents will travel to our house in Houston, along with my sister and brother-in-law, an aunt and uncle, and any other family or friends who may want to join.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of hosting.  It’s going to be aaaaamazing not to travel over the holiday, and entertaining our favorite people is, well, one of our favorite things.

But I want to get it right.  And while Ross and I are lucky to agree on a number of traditional dishes (including three absolutely necessary pies), there is some wiggle room for experimentation, as long as it’s delicious.

Enter Fine Cooking.  Mashed potato gratin with browned butter, manchego, and horseradish you say?  Don’t mind if we do.

And I have to say, this recipe surprised me, in an unexpected way.  A good way, but unexpected.  In fact, it makes me think of football, which melds nicely with my Thanksgiving expectations.  

To be specific, you hear “horseradish,” and you think, “strong,” and “intense,” and maybe “bad breath.”  This recipe, however, was not overwhelming in the horseradishness.  In fact, none of the flavors were overwhelming at all.  Instead, you just get this subtle savoriness that makes you say, “Ooooh, I need just one more taste of THAT.”  And then you take just one more taste, and want just one more, and you still can’t put your finger on why it tastes different from other mashed potatoes.  That, my friends, is not only a  good potato dish, but also a good team player.  Maybe it’s the offensive guard, or a dependable right tackle.  Not flashy, but an excellent foundation for any good play.  It’s tough to have a winning game, or Thanksgiving meal, without a delicious, I mean consistent, line-up.  These potatoes are a no-brainer in your draft.  They can support your turkey without any problem whatsoever, and they play well with gravy and sauces, which mix nicely with its nuanced flavor.  An excellent teammate, and a solid player on its own.  

This potato?  Pro-bowl.  All-star.  Hall of fame.  <End zone dance>

Mashed potato gratin with browned butter, manchego, and horseradish

Adapted from Fine Cooking.

Mashed Potato Gratin with Brown Butter, Manchego, and Horseradish
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A surprisingly subtle, yet rich and savory side dish.
Serves: 8-10 servings
  • 4 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 oz. manchego cheese, finely grated (about 1 ¾ cups)
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 2 Tbs. prepared horseradish
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh dill
  1. Bring a stockpot full of water to boil (water should be enough to cover the potatoes). When the water comes to a boil, add a couple pinches of salt, then add the potatoes.
  2. Boil potatoes until tender and easily pierced with a fork (about 15 minutes).
  3. While potatoes are boiling, add the butter to a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Bring the butter to a simmer and cook until it starts to turn golden and smell toasty, about five minutes, then remove from heat. Watch very carefully, as the butter can quickly burn.
  4. When potatoes are tender, carefully pour about two cups of the boiling water into a large bowl or glass measuring container. Then drain the rest of the potatoes into a large strainer.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler in your oven on high. Position the top oven rack about six inches from the broiler.
  6. Return the potatoes to the stockpot and add the cheese. Mash the potatoes and cheese with a potato masher.
  7. Add the browned butter, creme fraiche or sour cream, and horseradish to the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste, stirring well. Add enough of the reserved potato water for your desired consistency. Stir until smooth.
  8. Spoon the potatoes into a 9 by 13 or 2 quart casserole dish and place into the oven under the broiler. Broil about three to five minutes, until the top is golden brown.
  9. Remove from oven and garnish with dill. Serve immediately.
  10. You can also delay adding the garnish and keep warm in the oven on low until ready to serve. If it will be in the oven for a while, cover with foil to prevent it from drying out.
Adapted from Fine Cooking.


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